If you want to play the Elder Scrolls Online come spring, and despite our view of its long-term prospects many will at least be ponying up for one month in Tamriel, it’ll cost you $15 a month on PC, $15 a month on PS4… and $20 a month, on the Xbox One, because Microsoft is resolute that Xbox Live Gold is the only way you can access any “premium” features on your console. And if Microsoft doesn’t change that policy, fast, it’s going to hurt them.
A Metal, Perhaps, But Not Gold
To be fair to Gold, it’s finally a value in the sense that you’re getting free games out of the deal, something that will extend to the Xbox One later this year. The problem, though, is that if you want to do anything on the Internet with your Xbox console, you’re paying for it, and it’s ridiculous.
The classic example is, of course, the fact that you still need to give Microsoft five bucks to use the Internet you pay for to stream the Netflix subscription you pay for using the console you dropped hundreds of dollars on. Microsoft’s progressive, forward-thinking attitude towards streaming video is why the PS3 became the undisputed king of Netflix streaming last generation.
It’d be one thing if Microsoft made online multiplayer something you pay a fee for; while it’s questionable on the part of both Sony and Microsoft to charge a fee for what amounts to using a feature of the game you paid $60 for, one can justify it in the sense that multiplayer is hardly a cheap endeavor for anybody involved. Really, it’d be preferable if the subscription was paid to the publisher, and they were the ones keeping Sony and Microsoft paid.
But there’s no justification, whatsoever, for telling gamers that they have to pay Bethesda fifteen bucks a month and give Microsoft another five because it’s their magic Internet pipes. And it’s going to start causing problems sooner than Microsoft realizes.
A Decision That Shouldn’t Be Easy
Right now, of course, both Sony and Microsoft are selling surprising amounts of consoles. This console generation has gotten off to a rocketing start, which is surprisingly pretty much everybody. But neither side has even converted all their faithful to the new boxes yet, and they’re still looking for the killer game everyone has to have.
The Elder Scrolls Online is probably a game that will sell not just copies, but consoles. And that’s going to force gamers to look at their wallets, look at the cost of doing business with Microsoft, and decide that, hell, it’s the same game on the PS4, and that’s both $100 cheaper and they don’t have to sign up for PS Plus if they don’t want it.
Microsoft is going to keep seeing this scenario play out. They’ve got quite a few games coming up that use online connectivity in some clever ways… but that $5 a month cost is going to continue to keep those games from selling to their maximum potential. Titanfall, for example, forces you to get Gold, even if you don’t want it, as it’s exclusively multiplayer. It’s just too hard to justify, at this point.
It’s Time For Gold To Change
We get that asking 48 million people to stop giving you $60 a year is Wall Street suicide, of course, which is why we’re not insisting Gold needs to go away. That said, though, Microsoft needs to stop and consider what Gold might be doing to its long-term prospects. Sony made PSN free and has only added a fee specifically for multiplayer access, and made sure that what you get from that fee is worth it even if you don’t buy a multiplayer game for years.
Microsoft is close to doing the same, and it should pull the trigger. Otherwise, long term, the value of Gold will be too dear.